Language and Learning: Breaking Barriers to Success

Sumeya Loonat (De Montfort University)
Di Zhang (De Montfort University)
Xiaozhe Cai (De Montfort University)

Thursday, April 01, 2021 3:00 PM - 3:45 PM

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Session Outline

This presentation explores the intersectionality of race and language within a personal tutoring context. There are significant barriers faced by students of colour in higher education (Singh 2011; Stevenson 2012; Tate 2020; UUK/NUS 2019) and the impact of Covid-19 has contributed to further disparities.

The current framing of students of colour is homogenous under the contested term ‘BAME’ (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic); this labelling does not necessarily acknowledge the nuance to appropriately resolve inequalities within certain groups of students. For example, there are similar connections between domestic and international students of colour who use English as an additional language. The mainstream framing of these students is usually viewed through a deficit model which is harmful as it perpetuates negative stereotypes and hinders progress to address racial inequalities.

As institutions transition towards a blended model of learning as a response to Covid-19, the use of language is even more important when communicating with personal tutees in virtual learning spaces where usual face to face references are not always available. This presentation affords tutors the opportunity to revisit some of their regular, habitual learning and teaching practices and provides an insight into enhancing the student sense of belonging through online safe spaces during these challenging and unprecedented times.

We highlight practical measures that tutors can adopt, for example, the careful use of academic language terminology and the integration of contextualised academic support units which can foster inclusive learning environments and reduce language anxiety for students. We focus on the use of academic language from the perspective of racialised students and discuss possible intervention techniques that shift away from the unconscious bias of a student deficit or remedial approach.

This session addresses the following competencies of the UKAT Professional Framework for Advising and Tutoring
C3 - Academic advising and tutoring approaches and strategies
I5 - The characteristics, needs, and experiences of major and emerging student populations
R2 - Communicate in an inclusive and respectful manner